HOOVER, Ala. — Everybody in the Southeastern Conference is chasing Alabama’s Nick Saban, who among other things is a grandfather to 3-year old Amélie.
Bret Bielema has some catching up to do in that department, too. The Arkansas head football coach became a father for the first time Saturday at the age of 47.
He got about 500 text messages including one from the SEC’s head honcho after he and wife Jen welcomed daughter Briella Nichole Bielema, who weighed 7.8 pounds when she was born.
“I texted congratulations to Brett and all of a sudden my phone said he was FaceTiming me,” commissioner Greg Sankey said. “I had never FaceTimed with a head football coach in the SEC.”
Bielema, it turned out, was getting a veggie bowl from Chipotle for his wife, and explained to Sankey about the video call.
“I must have butt-dialed you,” Bielema recalled on Monday, the first day of SEC Media Days. “I apologize.”
Bielema continues to be one of the most colorful coaches at the podium here at the Wynfrey Hotel.
He was reminded Monday that two years ago he described a win over Texas as “borderline erotic,” and was asked how he would describe a win over Texas A&M, which he has lost to all four times at Arkansas.
“I know you guys are all looking for quotes,” Bielema said. “I don’t think I can go much further than that one. … That was before I had a child, so I’ll just leave it at there.”
Arkansas is coming off a 7-6 season, 3-5 in the SEC, which could make this a pivotal season for Bielema, who is 10-22 in the SEC.
Rawleigh Williams, a 1,360-yard rusher last season, gave up football due to a neck injury. One-time Georgia commitment Devwah Whaley (602 rushing yards) gets a chance to be the featured back.
Center Frank Ragnow said Monday of Williams’ decision that “it takes a lot of courage to do that.”
The Razorbacks squandered a 17-point lead to Missouri and 24-point lead to Virginia Tech in the Belk Bowl in final two games.
“I knew we had to take a new look at things,” Bielema said. “We had to focus on winning games at the end, not losing them.”
After giving up the most rushing yards in the SEC last season, Arkansas switching to a base 3-4 defense under new coordinator Paul Rhoads, who moved up from secondary coach.
“You naturally become more athletic with eight guys on their feet,” Bielema said.